Top 10 South American Cities
Chris’ personal picks from places in the world that he has visited.
Cartagena, Colombia: There’s history around every corner in the old city from where the Spanish gold was shipped across the Caribbean. Nearby coral reefs, powdery beaches, impressive mangroves, and waterways complement the historic beauty and it’s the only city on this list that’s accessible by great value packages from Canada.
Manaus, Brazil: Who hasn’t opened an atlas, spotted this city in the very heart of the Amazon at the centre of the continent, and imagined themselves there? The reality of this unique city is even more fantastic than imagination: a heady mix of tropical flavours and scents, exotic markets and an improbable Opera House built in the rubber boom.
Arequipa, Peru: Over 8,000 feet up in the Andes with a perfect snow-capped conical volcano floating above the Spanish colonial buildings which make this city a UNESCO World Heritage Site: it is nicknamed ‘The White City’ for its dazzling white volcanic rock buildings. Don’t miss the Plaza de Armas, the markets and Convento de Santa Catalina.
Sorata, Bolivia: So different from the harsh high altitude Altiplano, this pretty colonial town is hidden away at the foot of 6,000m Mount Illampu in a spectacular landscape of perpetual spring. The town is charming, but many of the visitors come for the impressive range of trekking opportunities which are perhaps the best in the Andes.
Riobamba, Ecuador: A lovely colonial city situated in a wide valley beneath majestic Chimborazo volcano with nearby Inca ruins. It’s a great base for climbing, biking and trekking in the Sierra as well as being the starting point for one of the world’s most spectacular and daring railways including the Devil’s Nose double zigzag.
Ouro Preto, Brazil: This former gold rush town remains in an 18th century time warp. Its cobbled streets wind around steep hills graced with beautiful churches, mansions, fountains, terraced gardens, towers and craft shops. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the merits of the exceptional talent of the Baroque sculptor Aleijadinho.
Cochabamba, Bolivia: This substantial city of 600,000 still has a small town feel about its arcaded plazas and bougainvillaea, jasmine and jacaranda strewn streets. It’s in a bowl in the mountains at an altitude of 2,500m which gives it a spring-like climate to enjoy as you explore La Cancha market, museums, the Cathedral and the nearby Inca ruins.
Merida, Venezuela: Venezuela’s High Andes boast snow capped mountains, remote villages and innumerable soft adventure opportunities with the attractive city of Merida perfectly positioned in the middle of it all. Star attraction is Pico Espejo, the world’s highest and longest aerial cableway which ascends to 4,765m through multiple ecosystems to the snows.
Cuzco, Peru: This list would be incomplete without the city that was the heartbeat of the Incan Empire. Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls and archways, most impressively shown in the curved stonework in the Temple of the Sun and the brooding fortress of Sacsayhuaman overlooking the city from a hill to the north.
Salta, Argentina: Tucked away in the top left hand corner of Argentina is a city of elegant plazas and noble colonial buildings, bursting with regional folkloric music and home to some of the best food and wine on the continent. It’s situated in a broad valley surrounded by cool forests and imposing mountains – a real gem of a place!